Since my last post, my team-mate at the University of Limerick and I, along with our colleagues at the University of South Florida and Université Paris Diderot, have been beavering away on the design and creation of an instructional document, as part of a virtual team assignment.
Many, many emails and Sulis/Sakai (our chosen platform for collaborative work) posts later and we have a final document winging its way to our French translators. We now await word from our colleagues in Paris on whether they can decipher our meaning from our instructional document. Fingers crossed!
Overall, the process has been relatively hassle-free. There have been no disagreements, no serious delays, and throughout, everyone has remained committed to the project.
How did all this productivity and conviviality come to pass? To answer that question, we need to look at the emails generated by all involved parties (Skype was ruled out due to time-zone issues).
From the outset, all team members were at pains to communicate their enthusiasm, their willingness to work together and their openness to consideration of all avenues for the creation of the document. Consequently, all members of the team felt assured, confident that there was a mutual engagement with the project and an eagerness to find agreement on the process.
Despite Mike Markel’s advice to the contrary, we developed our own style of netiquette which injected humour and, dare I even mention it, the occasional emoji (gasp!) and the quality of communications were all the better for it. I am not suggesting that emails in the workplace should be rife with jokes and emoticons, what I am suggesting is that CMC (computer mediated communication) often removes the social cues required to interpret and extract meaning from a conversation. Misunderstandings and hostility can arise from misconstrued tones, and without face-to-face (F2F) interplay, perceived affront can go undetected and unresolved.
When mistakes were made, and they were made, (to err is human etc.) there was no censure, no disapproval. On the contrary, every effort was made to underplay errors and refocus for the good of the project.
In their paper, Derks et al discuss how computer mediated communication (CMC) provides a conduit to more candid communication due to the absence of face-to-face (F2F) exchanges. Their findings suggest that emotion is more frequently and explicitly conveyed through CMC than by F2F.
Despite the opportunity that email presents for uninhibited emotional communication, our little group managed to channel only positive, supportive messages that expedited the process and resulted in quite a nice little instructional document (if I do say so, myself!).